Researchers hung men on a cross and added blood in bid to prove Turin Shroud is real

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In an attempt to prove that the Turin Shroud—a strip of linen that some people believe was used to wrap Jesus’s body after his crucifixion and carries the image of his face—is real, researchers have strapped human volunteers to a cross and drenched them in blood. Most mainstream scientists agree the shroud is a fake created in the 14th century.

The mock crucifixions are the most reliable recreations yet of the death of Jesus, the researchers suggest in an online abstract of a paper to be presented next week at a forensic science conference in Baltimore, Maryland (abstract E73 on p. 573 here). And they are the latest in a tit-for-tat series of tests, academic rebuttals, and furious arguments over the provenance—or lack thereof—of the centuries-old religious artifact. But the researchers hope the experiment will “support the hypothesis of Shroud authenticity in some new and unexpected ways.”

The research team from the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado in Colorado Springs would not comment on the crucifixion experiments before presenting them to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’s (AAFS’s) annual meeting on 21 February. But the abstract describes “an experimental protocol by which special wrist and foot attachment mechanisms safely and realistically suspend the male subjects on a full-size cross.”

The researchers used the image on the cloth to work out the mechanics of the crucifixion, such as where the nails were hammered in, according to the abstract. They tried to re-create these features when they placed each volunteer on the cross. The male subjects “were carefully chosen to correspond, as closely as possible, to the physiology depicted by the frontal and dorsal imprints visible on the Shroud of Turin,” they write in the abstract. “The cross and suspension system were designed to accommodate various positional adjustments of the body as appropriate.”

“Professional medical personnel were invited to not only contribute to the experimental protocol and analyses, but also to ensure the medical safety of the subjects,” the abstract states. Then, the researchers applied the blood and “documented and analyzed” the “resulting flow patterns over the simulated, crucified subjects.”

The study challenges a previous analysis of the way blood released during a crucifixion would have stained a wrapped body. That research, presented to the AAFS meeting in 2014 and published last year in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, suggested that whoever produced the stains on the shroud believed that people were crucified with their hands crossed above their heads—which historians have contested.

Matteo Borrini, the forensic scientist at Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom who produced that analysis says he will be at the Baltimore meeting and will attend the talk. “I’m happy to discuss this with them,” he says. “At least we are discussing something physical.” He says there is no dispute among scientists over the shroud’s origins: historical records and carbon dating show it was created in medieval times.

The Colorado center experiment is the most recent in a long line of unusual tests on the cloth. It was led by John Jackson, a physicist who was part of a weeklong 1978 scientific survey of the shroud. Its 1981 report concluded that the shroud’s famous image of the bearded man—which was discovered in 1898 in a photographic negative of the cloth—was that of a “real human form of a scourged, crucified man” and was not produced by an artist. The report concluded that neither chemistry nor physics could explain how the marks were made on the cloth, an area of uncertainty exploited by those who choose to believe they were left by the bleeding body of Christ. (Jackson has also suggested the marks were left by a body that disappeared and emitted powerful radiation.)

Other shroud researchers have pored over what little physical evidence exists, much of it left over from the 1978 study. They have analyzed pollen grains found on the material to track its movements through history and examined physical stresses placed on recovered fibers.

One of the most unusual experiments was performed by Giulio Fanti, a mechanical engineer at the University of Padova in Italy. To test Jackson’s radiation theory, in 2015 Fanti described how he suspended a mannequin wrapped in linen and then blasted its feet with 300,000 volts of electricity for 24 hours to create a coronal discharge that ionized the surrounding air and stained the covering material. He says: “Hundreds of scientists in vain [have] tried to propose hypotheses able to partially explain that body image.”

Fanti says arguments over the authenticity of the shroud can come down to faith. Borrini, a Christian, disagrees. “I have faith. Here we are discussing authenticity.”


Written by: David Adam

First published:


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One thought on “Researchers hung men on a cross and added blood in bid to prove Turin Shroud is real

  • 6th February 2020 at 6:42 pm

    Dear Keep the Faith, I am a nuclear engineer with 38 years in the nuclear industry. After retiring, I have spent the last six years researching and speaking on the Shroud of Turin. I have written 27 papers that are on the research page of my website Papers 24 to 27 document my four presentations at the 2019 Shroud conference in August. Your article on the Shroud was about John Jackson’s upcoming rebuttal to the July 10, 2018 paper by Borrini and Garlaschelli that supposedly disproved the authenticity of the Shroud based on a bloodstain pattern analysis. My rebuttal to Borrini and Garlaschelli is in my paper 17 on my website. It is titled “Evaluation of “A BPA Approach to the Shroud of Turin””. A summary of this paper was published in the “Journal of Forensic Science” and is included below.

    Is There BPA Evidence Against the Shroud of Turin? by Alfonso Sánchez Hermosilla, PhD and Robert A. Rucker, MS, January 8, 2019

    The paper “A BPA Approach to the Shroud of Turin”1 was published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences on July 10, 2018 documenting a Bloodstain Pattern Analysis (BPA) of the Shroud of Turin. The paper concluded that the evidence is “against the authenticity of the Shroud itself, suggesting the Turin linen was an artistic or ‘didactic’ representation from the XIV century” which “supports the historical records, the radiocarbon dating, and the chemical analysis.”

    The Shroud of Turin is a burial cloth that has been in Turin, Italy, since 1578. It has a continuous history back to about 1356 and there is convincing evidence that it was in Constantinople prior to 1204. It also contains pollen and chips of limestone that are most likely from the area of Jerusalem. The Shroud of Turin contains full size good resolution images of the front and back of a man who was crucified exactly as the New Testament describes how Jesus was crucified. Tradition has long held that it is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth. To determine whether this could be true, more historical and scientific research has been done on the Shroud than any other ancient artifact. Serious scientific research on the Shroud began in 1898 and for decades, the main object of research was the nature and meaning of the blood on the Shroud. Many very qualified people (Dr. Paul Vignon, Dr. Pierre Barbet, Dr. Robert Bucklin, Dr. Frederick Zugibe, Dr. Alan D. Adler, Dr. John Heller, etc.) investigated the blood and the bloodstain evidence on the Shroud for many years, even decades. Though certain questions may have remained, they generally concluded that the best evidence supports the belief that the blood on the Shroud came from the dead body of a crucified man who was wrapped within the Shroud. Most Shroud specialists today agree with this conclusion and also conclude that: 1) based on the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STuRP) in 1978, the image on the Shroud is not due to paint, dye, stain, liquid, scorch, or a photographic process but was made in some unknown way by the body that was wrapped in the Shroud, 2) current statistical analysis of the measurement data obtained in the 1988 carbon dating of the Shroud indicate that the conclusion of this dating, i.e. that the Shroud dates to 1260 to 1390 AD, is badly flawed, and 3) the body was probably that of Jesus. These conclusions are contrary to the conclusions of the above paper, thus motivating a detailed evaluation2 of the BPA as summarized below.

    It is probably not possible to adequately model the blood flow from a crucified body due to unknown details of events and unique conditions of the blood and body. Many details of crucifixion followed by removal of the nails, lowering the body from the cross, possible massaging of the body to relax the effects of rigor mortis, transport of the body to the tomb, and burial in the tomb are not known. Thus, the positions and orientations of all parts of the body at all times cannot be determined. As shown on the Shroud, the conditions of the body are far from that of a normal man due to beatings on the head and thorns driven into the scalp, severe flogging, falls while carrying the cross, and nails driven into both wrists and feet. The extreme physical exertion of pushing up and down to breathe for hours while hanging with the feet nailed in a vertical position, and the accumulation of dirt, sweat, dried blood, and swelling of the body all add to the unique conditions. These conditions would have led to extreme dehydration causing significant changes in blood viscosity, and extreme effects on coagulation and rigor mortis. To properly model this situation would require real blood, without an anticoagulant, flowing at the correct rate over real human skin, both in the condition they would be in during and after crucifixion. Due to these extreme difficulties, any attempt to simulate the conditions of a body and its blood flow during and after crucifixion must be very approximate. The experimental procedures in the BPA are a good example of this. The main problems with the procedures in the BPA appear to be the following:

    • Synthetic blood or human blood containing an anticoagulant and a preservative would not have the same viscosity, flow behavior, or coagulation rate as human blood during and after crucifixion. The evidence on the Shroud (Figure 1 of the BPA) indicates that the real blood, due to crucifixion and without an anticoagulant, is much more viscous than the blood used in the experiments (Figure 7 of the BPA).
    • Blood flow on the clean smooth plastic of the mannequin would not properly simulate blood flow on human skin containing pores, hair, wrinkles, and swelling as well as the products of crucifixion such as sweat, dirt, and dried blood. This would especially apply to blood dripping off skin compared to plastic.
    • The blood flow rates were not the same. Compressing a sponge onto the side of a plastic mannequin, with the blood containing an anticoagulant and a preservative, would not produce the same flow rate as a spear thrust into the side of a dead man.
    • The angles were not correct. A hand flat on a table does not simulate a hand in a vertical position, and a person standing on the floor will not simulate the configuration of a person’s body during crucifixion due to the probable outward bow of the body.
    • Regarding the nail through the wrist, only blood flow from the back or exit wound was considered. Blood flow from the front or entrance wound was not considered. Experiments were also not performed on blood flow from the head, the feet, or the scourge marks.
    • The plastic mannequin torso had no arms, whereas the body as it was wrapped in the Shroud in the horizontal position had bare arms next to the side wound. In the tomb, the arms could have affected the blood flow from the side wound.

    The BPA identified two alleged inconsistencies between the results of the experiments and the blood on the Shroud. The blood on the left forearm was interpreted to contradict the blood flow on the back of the left wrist, but the blood on the left forearm may have come from the front of the left wrist combined with a body posture that is bowed out from the cross, thus changing the angle of the arms. The blood on the lower back was interpreted to contradict the location of the side wound, but the blood on the lower back may have been directed to that location by dried blood on the body while it was on the cross, or by clothing, or by the arms that were around the body in the tomb. It may have also resulted from blood dripping off the elbows if the shoulders were being massaged to overcome rigor mortis to bring the arms down into position over the groin. Several possibilities have been suggested2 to resolve these two alleged contradictions. The BPA concluded that their experiment regarding the spear wound in the chest “shows that the Shroud represents the bleeding in a realistic manner”. But this conclusion contradicts the results of their experiment. Figure 7 in the BPA shows that in their experiment #5, the blood ran down in several streams, down to the groin and down the leg past the bottom of the plastic mannequin torso, whereas the blood on the Shroud only traveled inches from the side wound. This shows how unrealistic the experiments were. Instead of using the alleged inconsistencies to argue that the Shroud is not authentic, it is probably more reasonable to conclude that these alleged inconsistencies indicate that we don’t understand the details of what happened during and after crucifixion, or that the experimental procedures were inadequate.

    There is nothing in their BPA analysis to indicate the century that the Shroud originated, so the authors evidently based their reference to a 14th-century date for the Shroud on their view that previous research on “the historical records, the radiocarbon dating, and the chemical analysis” had proven a 14th century date for the Shroud. But this is contrary to the consensus of historical and scientific research over the last 40 years. There are many lines of evidence indicating that the Shroud existed long before the 14th century and that refutes the d’Archis memorandum’s claim that the image on the Shroud was painted. The conclusion of the 1988 C14 dating of the Shroud to 1260 to 1390 AD should be rejected because 13 other date indicators are inconsistent with 1260 to 1390 AD but are consistent with the first century date, and because the statistical analysis of the 1988 measurement data in the paper by Damon3 failed to recognize that something (a systematic bias) very likely (98% probability) altered all the measurement values2. Most Shroud experts agree that the chemical analysis of Walter McCrone was disproven by the results of the STuRP analysis. This means that there is no valid reason to claim that the Shroud is from the 13th or 14th centuries. In conclusion, the experiments discussed in the BPA do not constitute valid evidence against the Shroud of Turin being the authentic burial cloth of Jesus. Further discussion is included in Ref. 2.

    1. Matteo Borrini, Ph.D., and Luigi Garlaschelli, M. Sc., “A BPA Approach to the Shroud of Turin”, Journal of Forensic Sciences, July 10, 2018, .
    2. Robert A. Rucker, “Evaluation of ‘A BPA Approach to the Shroud of Turin’”, October 15, 2018, .
    3. P. E. Damon, et al, “Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin”, Nature, vol. 337, No. 6208, pages 611 to 615, February 16, 1989.


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